July 21, 2017 – Kenny Shields was born in 1947 in the farming community of Nokomis, Saskatchewan, Canada. His passion for music and entertaining emerged at the age of six when he entered and won an amateur talent show. While continuing his interest in music and singing, upon graduation from secondary school he moved to Saskatoon to attend university but was immediately recruited by the city’s premiere band – Witness Incorporated.
Kenny’s lifelong dream began to take shape as the band built a loyal fan base across the country, scoring with a string of national radio hits including “I’ll Forget Her Tomorrow”, “Jezebel” and “Harlem Lady, all featuring Kenny’s unmistakable vocals. After touring with such legendary artists as Roy Orbison and Cream, tragedy struck in 1970 when Shields was critically injured in an automobile accident that sidetracked him from music for several years.
In 1975, after a period of convalescence, Kenny moved to Winnipeg to join a band originally from Saskatchewan called Wascana, whose members included bassist Spider Sinnaeve and keyboard player Daryl Gutheil. The voice was re-energized, the stamina returned, the band gelled, and after relocating to Saskatoon, they became Witness again.
While on the Alberta touring circuit, Shields struck up a friendship with guitarist Paul Dean and drummer Matt Frenette and in October 1976, with Witness having finished its run, Kenny, Paul, Matt, Spider, and Daryl began rehearsals in Regina, the five forming the quintessential prairie powerhouse band of the late 1970s and early 1980s – Streetheart. With stunning instrumental talent, and with Shields, the “born entertainer armed with one of the greatest voices in rock” up front, Streetheart quickly found success, selling into the millions and headlining shows from coast to coast.
The band topped the Canadian charts with non-stop hits such as “Action”, “Hollywood”, “Here Comes the Night”, “Under My Thumb”, “Tin Soldier”, “Look In Your Eyes”, “What Kind of Love Is This”, “One More Time” and “Snow White” – all songs that remain standards on radio playlists. Along the way they earned a total of six gold albums, four platinum albums, a gold single, two Ampex Golden Reel awards, a Music Express Peoples’ Choice Award as Most Popular Canadian act, and a Juno Award.
At the peak of their career, Streetheart toured with several rock bands. Canadian bands included Chilliwack, Rush, Toronto, Harlequin, Max Webster, Aldo Nova, April Wine, Headpins; while American bands included Sammy Hagar, Styx, Kansas, Blue Öyster Cult. They also toured with AC/DC.
In September 2003, Kenny Shields and Streetheart were inducted into the Western Canadian Music Association Hall of Fame.
Shields continued to be a fixture on the Winnipeg music scene, doing solo shows as well as performing with his old mates.
“Kenny gave everything he had, every night when he was performing,” band guitarist Neill said. “He was ultra talented and had the most unique voice. He will be remembered as one of Canada’s greatest frontmen.”
Kenny Shields passed away on July 21, 2017 from cardiac complications. He was 69.